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'I'll lose £450': Thousands miss out on 26-30 Railcard after delay

A regular train traveller who turns 31 on New Year's Day says the delayed national launch of the 26-30 Railcard could cost him £450 next year.

Clint Furnish, who lives in Crawley, West Sussex, told MoneySavingExpert.com he had been planning to use the 26-30 Railcard – which the Government had promised would be on sale by the end of 2018 – to make regular visits to see his partner, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

It was announced last month that the 26-30 Railcard would be released by the end of December, and this promise was reiterated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who pledged in this year's Budget that it would be "available across the network by the end of the year".

But the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, today announced that the release of the card has been delayed until 2 January, by which time Clint – and thousands of others – will be 31 and ineligible.

See our MSE News story on the release of the 26-30 Railcard for full info on how it works, and our Cheap Train Tickets guide for more help cutting costs.

'When you're promised something and they change it, it's not fair'

Clint told MoneySavingExpert.com: "The delay to the Railcard's release means I'll miss out. I wouldn't mind if they had said 2 January all along – but when you're promised something and they change that, it's not fair.

"I travel to and from Stoke-on-Trent all the time as my partner lives there – I live in Crawley – and I do more journeys than that, so I'd say [the Railcard would save me] about £450-ish per year.

"I understand that advance fares are cheaper, but I only find my shifts for work out two weeks in advance so miss out on those too."

Clint has already contacted the Rail Delivery Group's Railcard team in the wake of this morning's announcement to ask if an exception could be made for him – but he was told that wasn't possible.

And Clint isn't alone in his predicament. While we don't have precise figures for how many people will turn 31 on 1 and 2 January, and therefore be ineligible for the card when they would have expected to get one, it's likely to be thousands.

Office for National Statistics data shows that an average of 1,574 babies are born on 1 January each year, and a further 1,712 on 2 January, based on figures from 1995 to 2014. Assuming the figures were similar back in 1988, over 3,000 people will be unable to get the 26-30 Railcard because of the delay.

'Any delay is frustrating'

MoneySavingExpert news and features editor Steve Nowottny said: "The national roll out of the 26-30 Railcard has been keenly anticipated for months, so any delay is frustrating. And while a couple of days may not seem like a big deal, for thousands with birthdays around then it means they simply won't get a third off many rail fares for a year.

"It's bizarre that rail passengers have been left in this situation – the Rail Delivery Group should either make an exception for those caught out, or at the very least offer a full explanation of why the roll out's not run according to schedule."

What does the Rail Delivery Group say?

We've asked the Rail Delivery Group if it will consider making an exception for Clint and others in his position, and will update this story when we've heard back.

This morning, speaking about the delay, it said: "We intended to launch the 26-30 Railcard by the end of the year, [but] given how timings have worked out this would mean launching it over a bank holiday."

How does the 26-30 Railcard work?

The 26-30 Railcard will cost £30 and will give you a third off most rail fares for one year – though a £12 minimum fare applies between 4.30am and 10am from Monday to Friday.

You also get a discount on London travel – a third off off-peak fares and off-peak daily caps on Oyster cards.

You can buy the 26-30 Railcard up to the day before your 31st birthday and keep using it until its expiry date – so if you renew it at the right time, you can use it until just before you turn 32.

While it's generally marketed towards giving discounts on leisure tickets, it can also give hefty discounts for commuters too. See our Trick to use the 16-25 Railcard to save £100s on your commute MSE News story for more.